By Benjamin Preiss Photo: Jason South
Laura Chipp believes she has some inside knowledge that’ll give her an edge in an election campaign on law and order.
But the daughter of Democrats founder Don Chipp, who famously vowed to “keep the bastards honest”, will not run on a platform of cracking down on youth crime at the November state election.
Instead, she will use experience gained in her day job as managing principal lawyer of the Children’s Court prosecutions unit with Victoria Police to argue that throwing the book at young offenders does not improve community safety.
Ms Chipp is standing as a candidate for Fiona Patten’s Reason Party — previously known as the Sex Party — in the upper house district of South Eastern Metro.
She is among a group of candidates the Reason Party will unveil on Sunday to contest the November election.
The party will run in all eight of the upper house districts and some lower house seats but getting their leader, Ms Patten, re-elected in her Northern Metropolitan seat will be a priority.
Among the candidates will be Judy Ryan, who mounted a powerful community campaign to open a supervised injecting room in Richmond.
Ms Chipp says the party has broadened its base since changing the name from Sex to Reason last year, attracting a varied group of candidates who bring a range of life experiences.
“We’re all people from completely different walks of life – social workers, architects, flight attendants,” she says.
Laura Chipp’s father Don Chipp was the founder of the Australian Democrats. Photo: Fairfax Media
While both the Coalition and the government have traded slogans about clamping down on youth offenders, Ms Chipp says her party’s policies are based on evidence.
She supports “restorative justice”, which can include meetings between offenders and victims, giving young people greater insight into the damage their actions have caused.
This method was used after youths rioted in the CBD following the Moomba parade in 2016.
“The key to stopping youth offending is actually making them understand victim empathy.”
Ms Chipp, a former criminal lawyer with Victoria Legal Aid, says there are cohorts of violent young offenders but vigorously disputes claims that youth crime is out of control.
Ms Chipp also argues Victorian politics needs a fresh dose of honesty and could start with opening ministers’ diaries to the public.
She also spruiks Reason Party’s long-standing platform of taxing the business activities of religious institutions.
Laura Chipp and Reason Party leader Fiona Patton on the hustings last year ahead of the Northcote by-election, in which Ms Chipp ran as a candidate. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui
Ms Chipp believes her party can have a positive influence on Victorian politics and highlights Ms Patten’s achievements in helping establish a supervised injecting room and buffer zones around abortion clinics to keep out protesters.
“We don’t scream from the sidelines and take cheap shots.”
Ms Chipp will take leave from her job with the police to campaign for a seat in the Victorian Parliament.
She has already contested several elections, including the Northcote byelection last year where she gathered 3.2 per cent of first preference votes.
In 2007, at the age of 21 Ms Chipp ran as a Democrats candidate in the federal seat of Isaacs.
Ms Chipp says young voters in particular have become disengaged from politics, but she hopes the Reason Party can restore some of the faith she felt when her father was a force for the Democrats during from the late 1970s to the 1990s.
“To see how politicians behave and what they’re doing now it’s never been worse in my opinion.”
Columnist and author Catherine Deveny has also been selected as a Reason candidate.
Benjamin is a state political reporter.